Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Black market antiques

I absolutely love some of the conversations I have during my day.  Yesterday, I was in a Chinese antique store I was marvelling at some of the stuff this lady had on display.  This prompted a half hour conversation about Chinese antiques.  Here are the highlights:

Me: This stuff is so cool.  Where do you find it?
Owner: Oh, I buy it whenever it comes up for sale in the U.S.
Me: Interesting.  Who is your main clientele?  Do you sell mostly to individuals or museums and stuff?
Owner: I can't really sell to museums.  They worry too much about the legal ramifications.
Me: Oh?  How does that come into play?
Owner: Well...most of this stuff starts out on the black market and then works its way into the legal market through some loopholes.
Me: What?!?  Wait.  Why is it in the black market?  Where does this stuff come from?
Owner: Oh, gets excavated and then it just makes its way out of China. 
Me: Come on.  I'm just an office supply salesman.  Where did this stuff come from?
Owner: Ok.  Most of it is dug up by graverobbers in China.  I can't sell to museums because China has a law stating that anything taken out of their ground is legally theirs, so museums don't want to risk it. 
Me: WHAT?!? You mean this statue I'm holding was taken out of someone's tomb by a graverobber and is here illegally?!?
Owner: More than likely.
Me: ...would you like to buy some toner?

Yes, she bought some toner from me.

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